At the beginning of 2021, Victorians had just come out of the most stringent lockdown in Australia so far. By the end of February, the country of 26 million people was celebrating defeating the infection rate of the virus when countries like the U.S and Europe were still struggling to bring the numbers down or “flattening the curve“. Australia was hailed as the success story. The reason why it seemed to have gotten ahead of the virus was that the people trusted in the science which their government was relying on to make decisions.
Australia’s success was due also to the quick response it took when the COVID-19 was declared an epidemic. The state governments took practical measures like sealing its borders and putting cities with rising cases under strict lockdown. Health officials took the lead and pushed the government to build manpower and isolate outbreaks as soon as they were detected. Perhaps the most important reason for Australia’s success against the virus was the willingness of leaders across various political spectrums to work together and Australians were prepared to give up civil liberties temporarily to deal with the pandemic.
The plan was simple: Shut down, trace, contain and inoculate as many people as possible, however, things began to move sideways. There were lapses in the execution of the plan. Some officials were uncomfortable with the hardline lockdown and believed things went too far with the closure of state borders. The country found itself entering a recession for the first time in 29 years and with the loss of jobs and plummeting economy, people took to the streets to protest against what some regarded as draconian rules.
Australia had grand plans about immunizing its population. So far, less than 5% of the country’s population has been fully inoculated. The government has been criticized for its slow progress especially in inoculating the aged and front-line workers.
On Monday evening 28 June 2021, Scott Morrison held a meeting with the nation’s premiers to plot a new way forward, particularly with the Delta variant which appears to be more contagious and spreading faster than expected. This virulent Delta variant of COVID-19 has already spread to five Australian states. This variant has become more dominant in England accounting for 99% of all new cases. In America, the Delta cases have been doubling every fortnight. Even the state of Israel, which was close to achieving herd immunity with 80% of its population having received the vaccine, is facing the threat of the Delta variant.
To control the virus, the government is attempting a change of strategy. It is now mandatory for aged-care workers to get vaccinated. To make the process easier, the federal government has agreed to release a grant of $11million to allow care workers to take what they need off to get vaccinated and or to deal with any side effects that may arise. The plan is to have all aged care workers receive the first dose by mid-September. After the meeting, it was also announced that people in their 40s can request the AstraZeneca vaccine if they want to. However this appears to be against current medical advice, with most state premiers and their CHO still advising against AstraZeneca for younger people at the current time.
In his post-meeting press conference, Prime Minister Morrison urged people not to give up regardless of how frustrated and tired people got from restrictions, regulations, and lockdowns, urging the Australian people to hang in there. Many Australians however appear to be growing tired of the Federal Governments handling of the situation so far, with public expectation being for vaccinations to become available to anyone who wishes to obtain them as soon as possible.